A truce has been reached in a battle between natural birth centers and the state’s health agency.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control has promised to give the centers six months to change a state law that DHEC says requires doctors to be available to come to the centers if needed during births.
“All the pregnant women are being stressed out unnecessarily at one of the most emotional times of their lives.” DHEC Director Catherine Templeton said Wednesday. “I just want them to stop worrying, and it’s sucking up minutes and hours of my time that I don’t have.”
Supporters of the Charleston Birth Place have been protesting DHEC’s position, which the agency stated in notices to birth centers last weekend. Birth Place owner Lesley Rathburn said DHEC was threatening to close the center if it didn’t agree to more doctor involvement within 15 days.
Templeton said the agency was asking for documentation within 15 days but never threatened to shut down the center. She met with the center’s attorney Tuesday and drafted a letter promising that DHEC would put the issue on hold for six months while birth center supporters worked to change the state law.
“If they can’t change the law and choose not to comply, then that’s the next conversation,” she said.
Supporters of the birth center have been saying there’s no need for doctors at the center, since midwives and mothers can decide when hospitalization is needed, and the center is five minutes from Trident Hospital.
Rathburn praised the agreement in a statement Wednesday.
“Assurances that the birth center will remain open afford us the time to work toward new legislation and the adoption of the national accreditation standards in our state,” she said.
An attorney for the association that represents the birth center had planned to go to court Wednesday for an injunction putting any DHEC actions on hold. The new assurances from DHEC make legal action unnecessary, attorney Laura Evans said.
“We look forward to working with the department to resolve the issue,” Evans said in the statement. “We sought a collaborative resolution from the start and are pleased that DHEC has agreed.”
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.